The tamed pigeons of Sarajevo
The Calgary Public Library’s One Book, One Calgary is an annual, city-wide library initiative designed to ignite community dialogue and enrich community connections through a shared reading experience. The 2011 One Book One Calgary selection is The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, a haunting novel with universal resonance. It tells the story of three people trying to survive in a city rife with the extreme fear of desperate times, and of the sorrowing cellist who plays undaunted in their midst.
Calgary Public Library invites you to participate in the One Book, One Calgary program and discover what happens when an entire city reads one book.
Explore our rich collection for more stories about war-torn Sarajevo, as well as about other places around the world affected by armed conflicts, former and present.
The Fixer by Joe Sacco, a noir-graphic novel set in Bosnia and Sarajevo, follows the author's real-life relationship with Neven, a "fixer", who, for cash, leads foreign journalists through the fragmented postwar landscape and sniffs out the grittiest "underground" news stories for them. Neven's tales of his days as both a legitimate soldier and a guerilla gang member are interesting; even more compelling are his descriptions of the ways in which certain ruthless, sociopathic fighters became, bizarrely, bubblegum idols, their looks fantasized over and their deeds lauded in pop songs. The story is told in fragments, flashbacks, and flashforwards; what readers will gain is less a "practical" knowledge of the war and its aftermath and more a deep, realistic, and dizzying sense of the time. The book was not created with promoting "war awareness" as a primary goal, which is probably what makes it so realistic. War is not clear-cut and easily described in a narrative with a traditional beginning, middle, and end. Full of jagged edges, The Fixer reads like the equivalent of a roomful of broken mirrors.
In his novel To the End of the Land, Israeli author Grossman serves up a powerful meditation on war, friendship, and family. Instead of celebrating her son Ofer’s discharge from the Israeli Army, Ora finds her life turned upside down and inside out when he reenlists and is sent back to the front for a major offensive. Unable to bear the thought of sitting alone waiting for the “notifiers” to bring her bad news, the recently separated Ora decides to hike in the Galilee, where she will be both anonymous and inaccessible. Joined by her estranged best friend and former lover Avram, a recluse who never recovered from the brutality he experienced as a POW during the Yom Kippur War, she narrates the story of her doomed marriage to Ilan and her often arduous journey as a mother. As the tension mounts, she talks compulsively about Ofer, as if telling his story will protect him and keep him alive for both herself and for Avram, the biological father he has never met. As Ora and Avram travel back and forth through time via shared memories, the toll exacted by living in a land and among a people constantly at war is excruciatingly evident. Grossman, whose own son was killed during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, writes directly from the heart in this scorching antiwar novel.
Mario Vargas Llosa's The War of the End of the World is set in nineteenth-century Brazil. In the midst of the economic decline in the Northeastern province of Bahia — following drought and the end of slavery — the poor of the backlands are attracted by the charismatic figure and simple religious teachings of Antonio Conselheiro, the Counselor, who preaches that the end of the world is imminent and that the political chaos that surrounds the collapse of the Empire of Brazil and its replacement by a republic is the work of the devil.
Seizing a hacienda in an area blighted by economic decline at Canudos, the Counselor's followers build a large town and defeat repeated and ever larger military expeditions designed to remove them. As the state's violence against them increases they too turn increasingly violent, even seizing the modern weapons deployed against them. In an epic final clash a whole army is sent to extirpate Canudos and instigates a terrible and brutal battle with the poor while politicians of the old order see their world destroyed in the conflagration.
(Photo courtesy of Max Tosic)